Autumn in Connecticut means leaf peeping, pumpkin carving, cool strolls along the seashore, and hikes and bike trips along the state’s abundant trails. But it also means a fresh new entertainment lineup of shows presented throughout the state that will enliven and brighten the ever-shortening days. Here is just a sassy sampling of shows and events that we’re most excited about seeing. >>>
Sure, you can catch another man-in-drag musical like “Mrs. Doubtfire” or the delicious excesses of “Moulin Rouge” in the Bushnell’s hot new Broadway season, but we’re also looking forward to some saucy talk from fascinating people we love. The Bushnell in Hartford is featuring two chatty celebs; we can’t wait to hear what they have to say. First up on November 3 is Jason Alexander. You may most identify him as George on “Seinfeld”, (you can bet the classic episode of “The Contest” will come up), but the guy has a long Broadway history as well. We’re sure he has lots to talk about. Then, on the next night, there’s Candace Bushnell (Bushnell at the Bushnell, we love it). Her “Sex and the City” column inspired the same-name series and its follow-up, “And Just Like That…” What does the Glastonbury gal think of sex, not to mention New York City, decades after it all began? And how about “Sex and the Suburbs?”
We were hesitant at first to see “Come From Away” when it opened on Broadway because of its story of the 38 airplanes diverted to a small Newfoundland town with an epic airbase on 9/11. But when we finally did, we discovered that it was an uplifting story about how the tiny community embraced their unexpected guests of more than 7,000—and it was extraordinary. Simply put, it’s one of the best musicals in ages: funny, smart and moving. You’ll leave the theater with hope in your heart for humanity. How’s that for a night out? The tour comes to New Haven’s Shubert Theatre November 8 to 11.
Talk about going the distance. It’s hard not to think of Michael Bolton, that sexy soul singer with the bluesy voice and a New Haven native who has been in the music business for more than 50 years; he has still got it. (We’ve always loved his music—and his hair.) The multi-Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter returns to a Connecticut stage December 17 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
With 12 Grammy Awards, an Oscar, a Golden Globe Award, a Tony Award and an Emmy Award, John Legend is, well, a legend. The singer/songwriter/pianist/record producer/actor makes us feel “so high” whenever we listen to his tunes. We’ll get that chance in person when he brings his latest music to Foxwoods Resort and Casino’s Premiere Theatre on November 10.
Darren Criss, an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor, singer, and “Glee” heartthrob, will make his return to Ridgefield Playhouse December 6 with “A Very Darren Crissmas.” (Love the title.) Criss has stepped out of the chorus, so to speak, and proved his acting chops on Broadway in such shows as “American Buffalo,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” But he showed his wide-ranging talent when he scored an Emmy for playing the killer (with killer good looks) in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”
We’ve loved Henry Rollins since he began as a frontman for both the Rollins Band and Black Flag. The punk rock icon has always had that sense of bad boy danger mixed with a fierce poetic intelligence of a Whitman or a Kerouac. The poet/actor/author/motivational speaker brings his Good To See You tour to the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Center in Old Saybrook October 1. We hear he will be recounting the events of his life pre- and post-COVID period, and we’re sure we will be mesmerized by his storytelling.
A jazz singer hasn’t won a Grammy for best new artist in years but that’s exactly what Samara Joy did last February. (She also won a second Grammy for best jazz vocal album.) Joy comes to Connecticut in more ways than one when the 23-year-old singer again plays the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on the UConn campus in Storrs for a concert October 20. Her chart-topping new “Linger Awhile” album has critics comparing her to such revered singers as Sarah, Ella and Billie. Let’s hear it for a new Gen Z star.
Let’s hear it, too, for the boys, or rather Jesus’ 12 disciples in the musical “The 12” that will play at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam through (appropriately) October 12. It’s rare that a new musical bows at Goodspeed’s main stage so this must be a show that’s very special. Miraculous, even. We like the pedigree for this show with the rock-style score, with a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schennkan and staging from the Tony Award-winning director John Doyle. But will the show get a blessing from the critics and make us true believers?
Connecticut loves Richard Thomas since the ‘80s when he had a run of stunning performances at Hartford Stage, so we’re thrilled that he’s upped for another run for the tour off the Broadway play “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is breaking records on the road. We can’t wait to revisit the Atticus Finch, Scout, Jem, Dill, Calpurnia and, of course, Boo Radley when it plays the Palace Theatre in Waterbury November 3 to 5.
There’s something cutting edge about opening your ears, eyes and heart to something culturally different—especially when it’s by creative artists from a country that is fighting for its life. DakhaBrakha is a musical “ethane chaos” quartet from Kyiv, Ukraine. It was created in 2004 at the Kyiv Center of Contemporary Art by the avant-garde theatre director Vladyslav Troitskyi; we’re expecting something at the crossroads of Ukrainian folklore and theater. In its own words, it is, “a musical spectrum intimate and riotous, plumbing the depths of contemporary roots and rhythms, inspiring cultural and artistic liberation.” The group performs November 19 at the Stamford Center for the Arts.
Speaking of global cultural entertainment, the Quick Center for the Arts will host the U.S. premiere of “MáM” on November 17, bringing together the virtuoso, Irish traditional concertina player Cormac Begley with 12 international dancers from his Teaċ Daṁsa company. We’re told Mám is Gaelic for “mountain pass,” as well as “under the yoke of sin,” or maybe even “a handful of sweets”—all sound intriguing to us. It describes itself as a meeting place between classical and traditional, showing how life’s polarities can on occasion come together and find resolution. Timely today, no?
Collective Consciousness Theatre has been making its mark in New Haven for a few years now with terrific productions so we’re especially looking forward to seeing Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Fairview” November 2 to 19. It’s about a middle class African American family preparing for a grandmother’s birthday dinner only to be watched by four white people. It’s an exploration of Black life and the white gaze, and it promises to be a stunner.
“Maidens, Witches and Femme Fatales: The Women of Opera” is playing at Madison Lyric Opera on October 14 and 15. This all-female evening sounds just grand (and puckish) as it features some of the greatest arias and scenes from the world of opera, featuring works by Bizet, Barber, Britten, Mozart, Puccini, Verdi Strauss and Wagner.
We’ve missed our tradition of seeing “A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas” at Hartford Stage since it dropped off the line-up several years ago. But now that original production is back November 24 to December 24, directed by its adapter Michael Wilson, and with many of the familiar actors we’ve come to love.
“The Year of Magical Thinking” is at various New Haven spaces in November. (Dates and places to be announced. Check out longwharf.org.) Kathleen Chalfant (Tony Award-nominee for the original “Angels in America”) performs this stage adaptation of Joan Didion’s deeply personal memoir. But the stage will be especially intimate as Chalfant performs the piece in some people’s living rooms as well as small spaces in New Haven area libraries, art organizations and local retail businesses. Long Wharf Theatre and the New York City-based Keen Company are partnering for this unique experience.
We love world premieres at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven so we’re looking forward to “The Salvagers” by Harrison David Rovers when it plays there November 24 to December 16. Meet the Bosemans Salvage: 37-year-old Senior and 23-year-old Junior, at odds under the same roof during a snowy Chicago winter. Their icy relationship is further strained as potential romances for both father and son compel them to reckon with the past. The Salvagers is a beautifully observed and humorous play about the second, third and fourth chances that may be possible when hard truths are delivered in love.
“Lizzie” will be at TheatreWorks Hartford. Our favorite Fall River daughter is back with a rock musical of her own. Think “Six” with a Yankee twist. It’s a 19th-century mystery that still haunts us more than a century later with its tale of murder, money and mutton—and now you can dance to it.
“Sunset Boulevard” plays at A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) in Ridgefield October 26 to November 19. This (relatively) new theater in Fairfield County is getting good buzz so we’re eager to return the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and, of course, our favorite queen of delusion (sorry, Melania), Norma Desmond, forever ready for her close-up.
What happened to that Black family after they left Chicago for the suburbs for a better life in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun?” Bruce Norris’ “Clybourne Park” imagines that intriguing scenario. His 2010 work has even more resonance today. The Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk presents the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play November 3 to 19.
Feel like a sentimental journey with music ranging from The Andrew Sisters to Beyonce? We’re heading to Playhouse on Park in West Hartford where “The Pin-Up Girl: A Musical Love Letter” plays November 29 to December 23. The set-up is appealing. While performing a Christmas cabaret at their local VFW hall, Leanne and her friends stumble upon a huge stash of letters from service men and women that go back 100 years with stories spanning from WWI to Afghanistan. Moved by what they find, the ladies put on a show celebrating our troops overseas. Can you spell USO?
“Whaddya Hear, Whaddya Say?” Miss TV’s “The Sopranos?” Then you’ll want to check out “In Conversation with ‘The Sopranos’” at College Street Music Hall in New Haven on November 18. That’s when cast members Steve Schirripa (Bobby Bacala), Vincent Pastor (Big Pussy) and Michael Imperioli (Christopher) share stories, memories and slides from the iconic show. Now about that series ending…
Who wouldn’t want to spend the holidays with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash? There’ll be a whole lotta shakin’ under the mistletoe for sure when “Million Dollar Quartet Christmas” comes to Ivoryton Playhouse in Essex for a run November 16 to December 17.
And if you still feel like more nostalgic rock and roll to brighten December—and offer some non-holiday entertainment—check out Center Stage Theater’s production of “All Shook Up” in Shelton December 1 to 10, inspired by and featuring the songs of Elvis Presley.
Feel like a wild trip to Isla Nublar? Watch out as the vacation takes a terrifying turn when a dinosaur escapes and causes chaos in the park. You’re invited to join with the scientists to help put the chaos to an end at “Jurassic World Live Tour” at Hartford’s XL Center November 3 to 5.
This got our attention. Bored Teachers, a group of teacher-comedians that became popular with its internet videos, will present their first-ever touring show telling tales out of school at the Garde Arts Center in New London November 28.
And speaking of laughs, Tom Papa, Netflix’ popular comedian and host of NBC’s “The Marriage Ref,” will make a stop on his tour at the Warner Theatre in Torrington October 20. “What A Day!”, his fifth Netflix special, will drop December 13. He also has a new book out, “We’re All In This Together…So Make Some Room,” which reflects his sharp-eyed and inclusive comedy.
Frank Rizzo is a freelance journalist who writes for Variety, The New York Times, American Theatre, Connecticut Magazine, and other periodicals and outlets, including ShowRiz.com. He lives in New Haven and New York City. Follow Frank at ShowRiz@Twitter.